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Trump and Putin to Hold Press Briefing After Long One-on-one Meeting; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 16, 2018 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[10:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. I'm Anderson Cooper here in Helsinki, Finland where it is 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon. President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin are now about 30 minutes into the second phase of their first ever summit. It's a working lunch, including their senior National Security officials, following a lengthy meeting of just the two leaders and their translators.

Later perhaps in this hour they're due to step before the cameras and maybe take questions from reporters. Though we've already gotten a bit of progress -- a report from President Trump himself in just brief remarks. Here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did the meeting go, Mr. President?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a good start. Very good start for everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The president always optimistic in his assessments of his own performance, saying it was a very, very good start. At the outset today, President Trump declared U.S.-Russian relations worse than ever and the Kremlin said we agreed. He also essentially blamed the United States for the poor relations and the Mueller investigation. Taking on the other side of your screen, you're seeing the location where that joint appearance by President Trump and President Putin is to take place.

You see the two podiums that they have set up. We believe they'll be taking questions from reporters, not quite clear on exactly how long that will last for. Obviously, both men will also be making statements. We'll of course bring that to you live. That could be taking place anywhere really within this next hour. We want you to stay tuned for that.

I want to bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, do we have a timetable of how long that working lunch may go on for and when that press briefing may start? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the

working lunch is supposed to be an hour or so, perhaps a little bit longer than that. And then the press availability, which is likely be statements and perhaps both leaders will be answering questions as well, will start after that. But the extraordinary part of the day likely is over, and we heard the president giving a very brief and vague readout there, saying it's a very good start.

But the fact that he was meeting one-on-one with Vladimir Putin for nearly two hours, perhaps even a slightly longer than two hours, certainly is going to be talked about for much time to come. He'll have to debrief follow his advisers. It was just President Trump, President Putin and two of their respective aides in there who were helping them communicate.

But we saw the president earlier today when he was shaking hands and doing his formal greeting. He said what he wants is an extraordinary relationship at some point with Vladimir Putin. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have not been getting along very well for the last number of years. I've been here not too long. But it's getting close to two years. But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. I hope so. I've been saying and I'm sure you've heard over the years and as I campaigned that getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So one thing that you did not hear in there of course is any mention of election meddling. The White House and the president has said repeatedly that he will bring it up. The extent to which he confronts or doesn't confront Vladimir Putin certainly will be the subject of that -- the press availability if they have that this afternoon, Anderson. So still ongoing here as we wait and watch those pictures, what's happening behind us in the presidential palace -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much for that.

I want to bring back in our experts. CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour, senior political analyst David Gergen and global affairs analyst Susan Glasser.

Again, Christiane, Jeff Zeleny was saying that the -- kind of the extraordinary thing is probably over, which was the one-on-one meeting, certainly for the substance that is probably the most extraordinary moment of the day, which we don't get to witness.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Right.

COOPER: I do think this joint press appearance is going to be extraordinary, just to see these two world leaders with all that has been going on, the attack that Vladimir Putin and his country has made against the United States, the cyberattack, which the other world leader on that stage, President Trump, has not directly criticized Russia for ever and is now in the process of blaming the United States for, blaming the DNC for, blaming the Obama administration, blaming the Mueller investigation for, to see them on the same stage is going to be extraordinary.

AMANPOUR: It certainly will, but particularly if they take questions because it's all very well to have all these differences.

COOPER: Right.

AMANPOUR: And just come out and each make just statements because they can get away with doing that. And then leave and we won't be any the wiser. And we won't be able to take a gauge and take a measure of how the feelings are, and then, you know, how each of them feel about what just happened.

I think that, you know, we still don't know what happened in their private meeting. Whether we'll ever know, whether his aides will ever fully know is unclear.

[10:05:06] I think what's happening right now might be really interesting, because the -- you know, the ministers, the aides are now getting a feel for what happened between their principals. And I just think that, look, for the West, certainly, you talk about what happened in the United States and it's also happened around Europe.

That's one sort of violation of national sovereignty. And the other, of course, for the NATO allies and others are how did President Trump put their point across that President Putin cannot be re-admitted into the community of nations until he reverses what happened in Crimea, and that is a very, very big deal for the rest of the alliance.

COOPER: Right. And, I mean, David, how does this actually work? You know, we saw -- we see little bits of this, obviously. We saw them at the working lunch. We saw them going into the one-on-one meetings.

Has President Trump had time to brief his staff about what was talked about? Has Vladimir Putin have time to brief his staff? Or do they go directly into this lunch?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It appears they went directly into the lunch. There was no -- you know, they came out of the one-on-one and went -- apparently the other people were waiting for them in the room. So I don't think that they have had time to think through. And normally, before you go into a presser, you do have a little -- you know, a gathering with the president and the communications person, chief of staff and especially the policy people. So what are you going to say here now? Let's -- you know, we need to know enough to help you frame how you're going to handle this.

COOPER: It's got to be worrying, Susan, for the president's staff because, you know, I'm not sure how to phrase this exactly. But his recollection of what was said or his portrayal of what was said may be very different than what was actually said, just as Vladimir Putin's portrayal of what was said between these two men may be very different than what was actually said. So if you're a staff member and you're relying on Donald Trump to tell

you exactly what was said in the meeting, that's not actually, you know, the most comforting thought.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Not at all. In fact I spoke the other day with a former senior adviser to President Obama who pointed out to me that under the Presidential Records Act, it's actually required that every meeting and statement of the president of the United States be documented in some way. And in the Obama administration, they were so concerned about doing that if the president had -- as he did, by the way, have informal one-on-one conversations on the sidelines of meetings with, say, Vladimir Putin. They were immediately figuring out how to write that down and record it.

COOPER: Which we should point out in the Hamburg meeting, there were two meetings in Hamburg, one that went on quite lengthy with Rex Tillerson was present and they did have translators. But when they were at a dining table and there was a lengthy conversation between Vladimir Putin and the president, there was not only no other official around, there was no U.S. translator for the president. So they relied simply on Vladimir Putin's translator.

GLASSER: Well, that's exactly right. And so did President Trump after that meeting, did he immediately give a full and detailed and accurate account of what was said? You know, I think there's a lot of people who are skeptical. And just to the broader question of, you know, what are we seeing unfold in front of us today? I mean, first of all, it's a very late lunch, we should say, to people, it's after 5:00 here in Helsinki. And they're still eating lunch.

You know, but, more seriously, for President Trump, he seems to revel in the spectacle of this and the media focus all on him. It's -- his advisers are not the ones making policy with Russia. It's him himself. So I think for him to come out now and how he is going to portray this meeting clearly is a big part of the purpose for President Trump even if it seems a little bit obscure to us policy wonks who actually spent our time focusing on Russia policy. President Trump I think does have a clear idea of what he wants to say today.

GERGEN: I would just say, Anderson, a former intel person told me -- was talking to me today about this. You know, the indictment material that came down this last week on the Russians, 12 Russians, was extraordinarily detailed. Our intelligence operations picked up enormous amounts of information. They're like, whoa, this argument was, you know, our American intelligence spent a lot of time trying to listen to the Russians to figure out what happened in this meeting.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: Which I thought that's an interesting thing to think about.

AMANPOUR: Right. I mean --

(CROSSTALK) GERGEN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: I mean, they got -- you know what's interesting? What Susan said, because she picks up on something President Trump said a while ago, you know, when there was all this contretemps between what he said about North Korea and what Tillerson, who was secretary of state at the time, said about North Korea. He said at one point, it doesn't matter, I'm the one who decides. I'm the one who makes policy.

And that's basically what we're seeing I think here. It doesn't really matter what his senior staff, his senior aides do. Because it is him who makes his policy. And clearly, as a businessman, I don't -- I just don't know enough about his business career. But as a businessman, this is what business people do. They get in a room. They use their own personal relationships and they try to strike deals. But of course, real estate is somewhat different.

COOPER: Well, also as a lifelong New Yorker and familiar with New York real estate, often New York real estate people are fabulous.

[10:10:07] So they create their own reality in terms of how much square footage the building actually is, how high it actually is and certainly that's something Donald Trump --

AMANPOUR: Fabulous?

COOPER: Fabulous. Fabulous. You know, inventing reality.

We are awaiting both world leaders. Again, I just think it's going to have complete disdain for a free and fair press, going to be perhaps taking questions from reporters. We'll see how both men respond to that. In just minutes President Trump and Vladimir Putin are going to hold that press briefing. Stay with us.

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[10:15:03] COOPER: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper. We are live from the Allas Sea Pool in Helsinki. A beautiful spot. You can see the presidential palace behind me where we are awaiting a press briefing to begin with President Trump and Russia's president Vladimir Putin. That may take place at any moment.

Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins me now from that location.

Jim, do we know when this is going to start? What are your expectations?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we've been told to tentatively prepare for about 5:15 local time here in Finland. Obviously that's going to slide back and forth I expect over the next hour or so only because this has been fairly chaotic from a scheduling standpoint all day long.

As you know the president and Vladimir Putin met longer behind closed doors with that interpreter one-on-one type of session. That lasted about two hours, two hours plus. And we only expected that to go about 90 minutes. They could potentially trim back the expanded bilateral session where the secretary of State and other top officials are joining the president in that meeting with Vladimir Putin.

But obviously, as you've noticed, Anderson, over the last 12 hours the president has already provided fresh material for us to ask him about at this press conference. And we have been told this is a press conference. It's been described as such as a press conference. We don't expect the president and Vladimir Putin to come out and just read joint statements and then leave without taking any questions.

When you describe something as a press conference that suggests that the press will be able to ask questions. And that's what we expect. However, with the president tweeting earlier this morning about U.S. foolishness hampering -- as he called it U.S. foolishness hampering relations between the U.S. and Russia and of course, Russian officials re-tweeting that and saying we agree, you know, the president may say that relations are damaged between the U.S. and Russia, but when they agree on that point it suggests that perhaps the relations are a little bit better than both sides are letting on.

We do understand, you know, the president did speak briefly just a few moments ago when the cameras were let in the room for that expanded bilateral lunch. He described the talks so far as being very good. But of course, we're just going to have to wait and see what happens when they come out here and detail exactly what went on. Of course the big question that we're all waiting to find out is whether or not the president of the United States confronted the president of Russia on this issue of interference in the 2016 election and whether or not he's told Vladimir Putin to stay out of U.S. elections moving forward -- Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, Jim, it's hard to imagine that there was a really dramatic confrontation given the president's own public statements, not only, you know, this morning but yesterday and in the days and frankly weeks and months leading up to this. I mean, he has been tougher on the DNC and on the Obama administration and Mueller investigation certainly than he has ever been on Vladimir Putin and Russia when it comes to meddling in and attacking the United States.

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. And just the last couple of days, he's described the European Union as a foe of the U.S., and almost ahead of where he sees Russia in terms of relationships with the U.S. That, I think, tells you -- I think that speaks volumes about how the president views the rest of the world right now. He seems to see his relations with un-democratic regimes as being closer in some cases than he does with longstanding U.S. allies.

I suspect he'll be asked about that potentially during this press conference. But there are a lot of things that they did want to talk about behind closed doors, behind -- besides election interference in 2016. They wanted to talk about nuclear arms control, they want to talk about the crisis in Syria. They want to talk about North Korea and so on. But of course I think the only thing that we're all really waiting for

at this point is whether or not there is this confrontation, whether or not the president puts Vladimir Putin on notice and says, this is intolerable, this is not going to be something that we're going to go along with in the future. If you do this, then there will be consequences.

As you said, Anderson, that would obviously be completely out of character for the president to do that. But who knows? Maybe he'll come in here and surprise everybody. My sense is exactly the sense you have, Anderson, which is he's not going -- he's probably not going to do that. But of course, at this point, you know, they're meeting behind closed doors. They're going to come out here within the next hour or so, start taking questions presumably. And we'll find out exactly what went on behind the scenes.

It was interesting, Anderson, I thought when the president was listing off the things that they were going to talk about before going into that first one-on-one, he didn't mention election meddling, election hacking when Vladimir Putin was sitting next to him. I thought that was very telling. It sort of reminded me of what we saw with the Germans, with Angela Merkel, during the NATO summit when the president sort of bashed Germany when he was with the NATO secretary-general but didn't do it to Angela Merkel's face. When he bashed Theresa May, the British prime minister, criticized her handling of Brexit, for example, to the "Sun" tabloid but then didn't do it when he was standing next to her at Chequers.

[10:20:02] And so it will be fascinating.

COOPER: Yes.

ACOSTA: I think it will be a fascinating look as to how this president operates when he finally speaks next to Vladimir Putin in front of all of us -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Also fascinating to see, does he use attacks on the press in this press briefing to form a bond with Vladimir Putin, who of course has taken attacks on the press to an entirely higher and more literal level.

Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Coming up next, we're waiting on that joint press conference for both presidents. Stay tuned. A short break. We will be right back.

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[10:25:15] COOPER: Welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper. We are live from Helsinki. You can see there, the room starting to fill up. We're waiting a press briefing to begin with President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin. They are still having that bilateral lunch, not just the two principals, the two presidents, but also with their staff, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Chief of Staff John Kelly, the National Security adviser Bolton is there.

Joining me right now is Gloria Borger, CNN's chief political analyst, and Dana Bash, CNN's chief political correspondent.

Dana Bash, just in terms of press conferences, there is much these two men sort of share in terms of world view, which is odd to say of a sitting American president and a sitting Russian president, and certainly even their view it would seem of a free press is very similar. I'm wondering if we're going to see some of that playing out if they do, in fact, take questions from reporters.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, my goodness, let's hope not because even -- and when President Trump trashes the free press here in the United States, there are dictators in smaller countries than Russia around the world who take that as a green light to backslide on free press there.

And I'm old enough to remember, Anderson, covering George W. Bush's administration, summits that he had with Putin, and he absolutely was open about having on his agenda really pushing him on the way that Russia and the way he treated a free press. But that sort of speaks to just, you know, one of many, many, many differences in approach that the president has to basic democratic norms in America, but also in this case to Vladimir Putin.

I was communicating with a senior Republican senator this morning who said that the concern that he has is that historically the only way to get Russia's attention, to get Vladimir Putin to listen, is with strength. And that the concern is that what has to happen, what should happen is that he, Putin, should be confronted and not coddled.

This is the opposite approach that we're seeing from President Trump. And it is a huge gamble that President Trump is taking, if, in fact, he wants to make progress with Vladimir Putin on Syria, on Crimea, on -- you know, the list goes on and on and on, never mind meddling in America's election, whether this is going to work, because it certainly hasn't with other presidents in the past, including George W. Bush who did try and failed to kind of make friends with Vladimir Putin or at least have a cordial relationship so that he can impress upon him the things that he needs to change.

COOPER: I mean, Gloria Borger, it's fascinating because this president, even when he was a citizen, when he had the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, he was sort of fan-boying over Vladimir Putin. Some tweet -- there was that tweet about wondering if Vladimir Putin was going to come to the Miss Universe Pageant and then sort of wondering aloud, you know, if he and Vladimir Putin were going to become best friends.

I mean, it's very interesting the length of time that this president -- that our president has been focused on Vladimir Putin. And, you know, in the past, has made claims that they actually had a relationship, that they were both on "60 Minutes" together, implying like they were lounging around in the green room which doesn't exist in "60 Minutes."

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Look, you're absolutely right. When he held the Miss Universe Pageant he was incredibly disappointed that Vladimir Putin did not show up. I think Putin backed out at the last minute. Trump wanted him to be there. And, you know, one other thing that occurs to me in watching all of this is that we have a president who understands flattery because he loves flattery.

It appeals to him. And so he is doing to Putin what he would like Putin to do back to him coming out of this meeting. I think he is really looking in an odd way for Putin's approval here. And that is why he starts out the day by saying, you know, this is all due to American foolishness. You know, this is our fault. It is Barack Obama's fault whom he didn't get along with. But certainly it's not my fault. So don't -- you know, so don't blame me.

And, you know, it's quite -- it's quite stunning that you have a president who seems to be looking for Putin's approval. And you have a group of hardline presidential advisers most notably I would say John Bolton, who is a huge hardliner when it comes to Russia. You have this dichotomy within the administration. You have the president wanting to make friends with a man he clearly admires. And then as you were talking about earlier in the show, Anderson, being willing to blame America first for the Russian meddling. And by the way --

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